What is the “temptation” in 1 Corinthians 10:13?


by Shawn Brasseaux

First Corinthians 10:13 says: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” What is the “temptation” here? Is it a trial, trouble, difficulty, hardship, sickness—what? And how does God “make a way to escape?” We turn to other verses for interpretation.

There is some confusion about “temptation” and the King James Bible. We often think of “temptation” as an enticement to sin, but that is not always the sense of the word. Our English term “tempt” is from the Latin temptare, meaning, “to test, try, handle.” Hence, temptation in Scripture means “examine to see what is really inside; try; test.” The word “temptation” in 1 Corinthians 10:13 means any situation or set of circumstances that exposes what is really inside of us. Either there will be good results (passing), or bad results (failing). Sin is not necessarily in view with temptation.

For example, look at Genesis 22:1: “And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.” Now, Hebrews 11:17: “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,….” Notice how “tempt” and “tried” are interchangeable. “Trials” and “temptations” are synonyms. A temptation is a trying, a testing, an examination. And, certainly, God did not tempt Abraham to sin. He wanted to reveal what was inside of Abraham (faith, trust in God’s Word).

In the context of 1 Corinthians 10:13, Israel’s circumstances manifested her unbelief. The chapter opens: “[1] Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; [2] And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; [3] And did all eat the same spiritual meat; [4] And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. 

“[5] But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. [6] Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. [7] Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. [8] Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. [9] Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. [10] Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.”

Instead of being thankful to the LORD God for all that He did for them (delivering them from Egyptian slavery, being with them personally, giving Moses to be their leader, giving them food and water miraculously, and so on), instead of being faithful to and trusting His Word; Israel doubted, complained, rebelled, and followed idols. They wanted to return to their old lifestyle in Egypt (captivity to sin, Satan, the world). Every situation listed in the above passage exposed Israel’s unbelief, doubt. Israel failed God miserably time and time again. They did not want to be His people and did not want to do His will. They were totally ignorant of His Word to them.

In verses 11-15, the Apostle Paul makes application for us: “[11] Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. [12] Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. [13] There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. [14] Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry. [15] I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say.”

Friends, we should be careful not to repeat Israel’s mistakes. Firstly, we should be thankful for our provisions in Christ, our identity in Christ, our blessings in Christ. Secondly, we should not get haughty and say, “We are so ‘spiritual’ that we would never do what Israel did! We ‘love’ God too much! We are so ‘much better’ than the Jews of old!” That is what verse 12 speaks against: “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” Such “holier-than-thou” pride would cause—and had caused—the Corinthians (and us Christians even today) to repeat Israel’s mistakes. If you read the context (chapters 8-11 of 1 Corinthians), you see that the Corinthian saints were engaged in idolatry, false religion. Satan was using false religion to corrupt them as he used it to pollute ancient Israel. Even today, Satan’s religious system poisons many Christians (thousands of denominations and millions of wrong ideas).

So, back to your questions about 1 Corinthians 10:13: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” The “escape” is not to have the difficulty/problem/hardship removed. Rather, God leaves us in the situation to see whether we will follow/believe His Word (like Abraham) or whether we will ignore/disbelieve His Word (like Israel). God does not send those hardships upon us; do not misunderstand me. He permits them, and they are opportunities for us to see what is really inside of us—faith or doubt.

We will “bear” or carry/experience/endure the temptation, and we will “escape” it by relying on the strength the Word of God gives us. In the case of 1 Corinthians 10:13, the issue is idolatry (but again, the principles can be applied generally to any time of trial or testing to see how we react). God’s Word will give us the internal capacity to overcome/triumph, but we must have God’s Word in the first place. Israel was not walking by faith in God’s Word, so they had no ability to succeed. Unless we have the Word stored in our soul, we too will fail.

After all of that, the Holy Spirit through Paul tells us, “Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry” (verse 14). See, again, we can “bear” the difficulty, hardship, time of testing, trial, et cetera. We can “flee from idolatry” because the verse says we can! Idols still remain, but we chose not to worship them! We can also flee from any type of unbelief, flesh-walking, sin, et cetera. Satan’s evil world system is still here, and we still live in this world, but we do not have to be “conformed” to it provided that we are letting God’s Word rightly divided “transform” and “renew” our minds (Romans 12:1-2)!

God’s Word furnishes us that ability, that strength, that fortitude, to make it through any and every temptation/testing/trial. Difficult circumstances do not have to defeat and destroy us. Remember, 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, Romans 8:18-25, and Romans 5:1-5. These are great passages to read and quote from memory in times of trouble. Our minds must be renewed to think about troubles/difficulties/trials/hardships the way God does. This is how we are to view trying times in the Dispensation of the Grace of God.

The temptation—whatever circumstance it is—will bring into spotlight what is really inside of us. People all around the word experience trials: after all, the Bible says, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man….” Trials are common to man….” And, by the way, you will remember Israel of old had them! Adam and Eve had them! Jesus Christ had them! We today have them! Yea, they are indeed “common to man.”

Let us read the whole verse now: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.Praise our Lord Jesus Christ! God is “faithful,” and He will be faithful to us. We just need to trust in His Word, and that Word of His Grace will take care of the rest. Israel failed miserably when it came to faith, but we can (and should) learn from that mistake. We are “able” to “bear” the “temptation” because “God is faithful.”

Is faith in God still in our heart, despite our troubles? Or have we concluded that our sufferings mean there is no God, that God does not love us, that God does not care for us? Are we thankful for what God has done for us in Christ and by His finished crosswork (saved us from eternal hellfire, given us eternal life, forgiveness, redemption, justification, et cetera)? Or, like Israel, do we want to return to the old life (unbelief, sin, serving self, doing what we want, worshipping idols, et cetera)? Grace gives us the freedom to choose!

A good way to understand temptation is to see the Lord Jesus Christ’s temptations in Matthew 4:1-11. Satan tried to use Jesus Christ’s circumstances to move Him away from Father God’s will for Him. (Satan used similar tactics with Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:1-6.) Adam and Eve failed thrice, remember. Christ, however, triumphed thrice. Those temptations proved that Jesus Christ would still stick by the Word of God. They exposed the faith/trust that He had in His heart with respect to Father God’s Word. Notice how Christ quoted those passages of Scripture. Satan would not divorce His mind from the Word of God. In spite of Satan’s deception, slyness, trickery, Jesus Christ stayed by the Bible. He did what Israel failed to do. He did what Adam and Eve failed to do.

Jesus Christ left us an example to follow with respect to temptations. No matter what circumstances we face, we go by God’s Word to us (Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon, the principles of Grace). As long as we choose to follow them by faith, we will not repeat Adam and Eve’s mistakes, or Israel’s mistakes. We will know what God has done for us, who we are in Christ, what mindset and behavior God expects of us, and so on. While much more could be said, this is enough to get you going on the right track about it. Glad to help!

Also see:
» Is God chastening me?
» How should we pray for people enduring natural catastrophes and other tragedies?
» Should we “plead the blood of Jesus?”

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